by C. Mikal Oness (Lewis-Clark Press)
Elegy, exorcism, expiation, charms against dread: poetry’s old work is disarmingly vital here. C. Mikal Oness’s poems are steeped in Old English poetics, but bent to a distinctly modern tune. Oracle Bones is ghosted by fish and by birds, by human presence and oncoming darkness, but suffused too by a tenderness that does not deny how deeply haunted these poems are, holding out the possibility of hope despite, and the actuality of praise.
In Oracle Bones two voices alternate and sometimes overlap. One voice is descriptive and narrative; the other, speaking in intimate poems of four or five lines, is lyrical, runic, mysterious. The effect is one of text and supra-text, not a random collection of poems but a deepening exploration of themes that center on loss, love, and our attendant responsibilities. Allusions to fly fishing-casting a line to draw up, by artifice, what lies beneath a surface, under dark rocks or weeds-often appear as metaphors in these poems. Oness casts such a line, and what he brings to light is both surprising and beautiful.
Water Becomes Bone
by C. Mikal Oness (New Issues Press)
Water Becomes Bone
The poems of C. Mikal Oness fade in as if they have been speaking all along in the background in a frequency or volume lost to the human ear until their patience runs out and they enter, reverberating, sleek and insistent. With incantatory lines that are addressed more to the self than to an outward entity, Oness calls to mind Stevens’ idea of the ultimate good—to believe in fictions while knowing they are fictions, to find real bliss only in what is infinitely deferred. There is a tension between what we settle for and what we try to squeeze out of fortune; whether we “keep moving for air” or “chant and kick powder,” the results are all we have, and we do not know enough about certainty to deem them fate or divination. This is a book that searches for that certainty through reversal, and the practice of Water Becomes Bone is to pan for its gospel by yielding to contrast, sifting the bright stones in the mix.
C. Mikal Oness (Photo by Laura Armstrong)
C. Mikal Oness is a homesteader, poet and printer, living in rural Minnesota. He is the founding editor and director of Sutton Hoo Press, a literary fine press producing hand-made limited editions of poetry and prose. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the University of Missouri, Oness has received the Toi Shan Fellowship from the Taoist Center in Washington, D.C. His poems have appeared in The Iowa Review, Shenandoah, The Colorado Review, Third Coast, The Bloomsbury Review, Fence, Puerto del Sol, and other magazines. His work has been awarded the Mahan Poetry Prize, an Academy of American Poets Prize, the Mary Roberts Rinehart Award from George Mason University, and a Wisconsin Arts Board Grant. His book of poems, Water Becomes Bone, was published by New Issues Press in 2000 and was awarded the Posner Prize in Poetry by the Council of Wisconsin Writers. He has a limited edition chapbook, Runian, from Bergamot Press, and another limited edition, Privilege, from Cut Away Books. His manuscript, Oracle Bones, was selected for the Lewis & Clark Expedition Prize and was published in 2007.